The Comeback That Never Came
Fact checking Gov. Walker’s claims of economic recovery show a state being left behind.
Gov. Walker recently published a highly misleading column “The Wisconsin Comeback Continues,” which highlights a handful of cherry-picked economic figures and examples (1). Unfortunately, for communities across the state, for many people struggling to find family-supporting jobs and for too many struggling small businesses, the “comeback” never came.
The Governor and Republican leaders seem to believe that citizens should be satisfied by their efforts – which may explain why there has been a lack of bold aggressive action on economic development and rebuilding the middle class on their part. However, polling suggests otherwise – in March the Marquette Law School poll found that 53 percent of voters disapprove of how Gov. Walker is performing his job and the last time they asked, the poll found that 60 percent of people disapprove of the way Republicans in the legislature are handling their jobs (2).
Let me be clear about one thing: legislative Democrats care very deeply about our state’s economy and are offering bold ideas for progress. We know our communities flourish when we have many people working at good-paying jobs. We are fighting for the middle class and those striving to get there.
That’s why it’s so troubling to see that the Governor just does not see the struggles of far too many citizens and instead of working for progress, he just sugar-coats the data.
Here are some sobering figures: More than 10,000 Wisconsin workers received layoff notices last year – the highest since Gov. Walker took office (3). Poverty is at a 30-year high in Wisconsin (4). Wisconsin is dead last in the nation for new business start-ups (5). According to Pew research, Wisconsin’s middle class is declining more than any other state (6).
Republicans have a stranglehold on our state government, and yet they did not take any meaningful steps to stem the flow of layoffs or help grow Wisconsin businesses.
Now, in an effort to boost his lagging poll numbers, Gov. Walker is cherry-picking data and using indicators that he himself has stated are a poor way of measuring job growth.
And yet, the Governor’s column relies on monthly statistics that he admitted are unreliable. If you look at the “gold standard” numbers that the Governor said he’d use 100 percent of the time, you would not – and could not – call it a “comeback.”
The most recently available quarterly jobs statistics show Wisconsin has dropped to 40th in the nation in private sector job growth over the past four years. Wisconsin is dead last in the region. Our state remains 10th of 10 Midwest states in private sector job growth (9).
Our state has been largely left behind in the national economic growth. Wisconsin’s job growth rate over the most recent one-year span was just 1.2 percent, compared to 2.2 percent nationally (10).
Let me repeat: legislative Democrats want to grow wages and our economy. Unfortunately, our efforts to get Wisconsin out of the gutter economically have been stymied by Republicans in power. Assembly Democrats put forward an agenda focused on growing our economy and middle class. Our 15 for 2015 Economic Opportunity agenda aimed to create good-paying jobs, connect workers with available jobs, increase wages and make us more competitive in a global economy. None of these ideas was pursued by the legislative majority and not one was brought to a vote.
Instead of focusing on growing the economy, Republicans focused on growing their own power – doubling campaign contributions and eliminating the nonpartisan ethics boards, among many other changes. Instead of growing wages as we proposed, Republicans drove down wages by passing right-wing policies like so-called “Right to Work” and gutting prevailing wage protections.
Gov. Walker and Republicans also continued their legacy of slashing funds for our public schools and colleges. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirms that since 2011, over $2 billion has been cut from public schools, universities and technical colleges based on decisions by Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans (11).
When it comes to the Governor’s stated goal of “more jobs and higher wages,” Wisconsin workers deserve more than lip service and magic tricks. They deserve real action.
(1) Gov. Scott Walker: The Wisconsin Comeback continues, May 2016
(2) Marquette Law School Polls, March 2016 and November 2015
(3) DWD Plant Closing Mass Layoffs (PCML)
(4) UW-Madison Applied Population Lab
(5) Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity
(6) Pew Charitable Trusts, March 2015
(7) Gov. Walker press release, May 2012, “What is the Best Way to Count Jobs?”
(8) PolitiFact Wisconsin, October 2015
(9) US BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Sept 2011-2015.
(10) Wisconsin Job Growth Lags National Average, Federal Survey Shows, March 2016
(11) Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, January 2016